Spring and Summer Rashes

Meghan Aldrich MSN CPNP

With warmer weather and (hopefully) less rainy days, spring and summertime in New England are full of fun outdoor adventures with the kids. Here at Pediatrics West, spring and summer also bring many rashes into the clinic! Here are some common spring and summertime rashes we encounter in pediatrics, most of which you can treat or monitor at home!

Heat Rash (Prickly Heat)

This is a common rash during the hot summer months. This rash is usually red, bumpy, and itchy and often appears in places where sweat collects such as armpits, back, chest, behind knees and elbows. The rash forms when sweat ducts on your skin are blocked and sweat is unable to come out of your skin. The rash usually goes away on its own within a day or two once your skin cools down, so treatment includes moving to a cooler area and wearing breathable clothing during hot summer months such as cotton. If necessary, over the counter hydrocortisone can help alleviate any itching until the rash resolves.

Mosquito and Insect bites

Unfortunately, the warm months also bring with them mosquitos and insects that are attracted to exposed areas of skin. Insect bites usually result in a small area of swelling where the bite occurred. Sometimes children can have larger reactions to insect bites. Most of the time the application of over the counter hydrocortisone and the use of an antihistamine such as Benadryl will provide relief. Always feel free to call our office if there is any concern about how an insect/mosquito bite looks!

To help prevent insect bites, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use bug spray with 10-30% DEET on children and infants 2 months and older. Insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months. It’s always a good idea to check your child’s skin at the end of the day for bites, ticks and other rashes during the warmer months.

Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Poison Ivy, oak and sumac commonly cause skin rashes during the warm weather months. The rash is actually an allergic reaction to the oil these plants produce. The rash can appear several hours to 3 days after contact with the plant. The rash appears as blisters and is very itchy. If the oil remains on clothing or fingernails the rash may continue to spread. The fluid in the blisters themselves do not cause the rash to spread.

Prevention is the best approach when it comes to treatment. Teach your children what the plant looks like and to avoid it. If there is contact, make sure all clothing and shoes are washed in soap and water. The area of the skin that was exposed should also be washed in soap and water for at least ten minutes after the plant has been touched.

Once the rash appears, if it is mild, calamine lotion can be applied to help with itching along with over the counter hydrocortisone. If the rash is severe or on the face, you should call your provider for further evaluation.

Sunburns/sun rashes

It is important for kids to play outside, but we must help them protect their skin from the sun! Some children develop an itchy red rash on their neck, chest and arms during the spring/early summer when they first start playing outside. This rash is known as polymorphous light eruption and usually clears in a few days without treatment. Sometimes, over the counter hydrocortisone can be effective for the itch along with Benadryl.

Sunburns are also a common but preventable summertime rash. When it comes to sunburns, prevention is the most important aspect of care! Sunburn prevention tips include:

Limiting sun exposure between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm when UV rays are strongest, wearing clothing that covers body, wearing hats with a brim that shields the face, ears and back of neck, wearing sunglasses with UV protection and wearing sunscreen!

Sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 15 to 30 and should be applied 15-30 minutes before going outdoors. It should be reapplied every 2 hours and after swimming. For babies younger than 6 months, avoid sun exposure and stick to shady spots and protective clothing. If shade is not available, you can use sunscreen on small areas of body such as the face. For babies 6 months and older, apply sunscreen to all areas of the body.

Swimmer’s Itch

Swimmer’s itch is caused by a very tiny parasite that gets into lake water from droppings of water birds. This rash is harmless and itchy. It usually begins within 2 hours of swimming in a fresh water lake and occurs on areas exposed to the lake water. Itching is usually the first symptom, followed by small red spots and bumps. The rash and itching are the body’s allergic reaction to parasites in the skin. This parasite can be found in lakes across the country. If your child develops this rash, you can apply over the counter hydrocortisone to help the itch. Sometimes cold packs on itchy spots can be helpful as well. For severe itching, Benadryl can be used. The rash will eventually go away on its own in about 1-2 weeks.

Hives (Urticaria)

Spring and summer are also times when many allergens are in the environment and can trigger a skin reaction known as hives or urticaria. The rash is usually raised, red and bumpy with some pale centers. It can occur all over the body or in just one area. Hives can come and go on different areas of the body as well. The most common causes of hives include viral infections, foods, medications, bites from insects, lotions, and new clothing. However, more than half the time it may not be possible to identify the cause. Most of the time hives resolve within a week but may come and go for up to 2-4 weeks. Treatment includes over the counter antihistamines and cool compresses to the area of itching and swelling. If your child is wheezing or having trouble swallowing, seek emergency treatment.

Hand Foot and Mouth

Hand foot and mouth is a common warm weather rash caused by a virus in the Coxsackie family. This virus presents with fever, sore throat, and scattered red spots or ulcers in the mouth and on the skin, usually on hands, feet, arms, legs and sometimes buttocks/diaper area. There is no treatment for hand food and mouth besides symptom relief with Tylenol or Motrin for fever or discomfort and monitoring your child’s hydration. Avoiding foods that can irritate the ulcers such as citrus containing foods (oranges, tomato sauce) can sometimes be helpful. If you are concerned about your child’s hydration status please let us know. The rash may last for about 1-2 weeks. Sometimes we see peeling of the fingers and toes after 1-2 weeks, this peeling is harmless.

Spring and summer are full of outdoor adventures and fun for children and families. Rashes are common this time of year but don’t let them slow you down! If you have questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact our office!

Leave a reply